Sunday, April 8, 2012

the Life and Times of

("She" in the first paragraph is the American writer Marguerite Young and "the book" is Miss MacIntosh, My Darling. See previous posts.)

But the paper cube represents failure, she can't be infinite, she can suggest the idea of infinity, the possibility of endless viewpoints, but there has to be an end, the book has to finish somewhere, either she was going to stop writing voluntarily or death was going to do the job for her; and it stopped her during one of her other books, Harp Song for a Radical: the Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs, which was published unfinished in 1999. Promising three volumes she only drafted one. Every author who stops writing a book has acknowledged the presence of death, and the last page of every book murmurs death, death, by implication, making that the final word in every story. The end of every story is, and then they all died.

A character who said a line on page five will never say that line in the same way again no matter how often you read the words, in fact the more you read the more it will mutate, the changes that run through you leaking out and affecting even a static thing like a sentence, or an apparently static thing; the line itself is secretly never still but moves through space and circles the sun. I age, therefore the sentence ages; if it's going to parasitise my memory then it has to take the good with the bad, and let it reflect that we're all in the same boat; this planet earth might feel the same way about me, or a least it acts as though it does.

So I treat the sentence as the planet treats me; this seems unfair and sour but, apparently participating in the nature of a planet as I am, I can't help it, or if it is possible to stop then I don't know how. Hypothesis: nor does the planet.

If she had composed the book orally there would have been nothing to represent her failure except silence. You would drive to the middle of a desert, stop the car, hear no human voice, and it would be the sound of Miss MacIntosh, My Darling.

Think of the subtlety she could have had, if novels could be infinite. There would have been billions of variations on Mr Spitzer's character. One viewpoint would only just differ from the one before, in one small part. The next one would differ so, so slightly, in another small way. Instead she made him both alive and dead, which is contradictory enough to get the point across. Infinity had to be replaced with unmistakable strength. Failure, which could be called modification if you prefer, is evidence of her existence as a human being. The novel she had planned was impossible in this natural environment, the one we inhabit, with its trees, flowers, sunshine, bees, water, and the inevitable deaths of its books.

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